Many of us have seen on Facebook the #22PushupChallenge to honor the 22 deaths by suicide within our veteran population a day. And you may or may not know that suicide continues to be identified as a one of the leading causes of death in the US across all age groups, gender, and race and is now ranked 2nd as a leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-44 . Unfortunately, Indiana exceeds the national average in deaths by suicide per 100k people and Madison County, where we are the largest behavioral health service provider, has an even higher rate of deaths by suicide per 100k residents compared to the state and national averages. We’re right in the middle of the “hot zone” and at Aspire, we have seen an alarming increase over the last few years of deaths by suicide for the people we serve.
Our response? Enough is enough. That is why one of Aspire’s 4 Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) is 0 after 5. This means we want zero suicides after five years among those we serve. In an agency where we do behavioral health treatment every day with people contemplating suicide, the idea of zero seems more than lofty, it seems impossible.
So, in a state and community where people are killing themselves at a higher rate than the rest of the country, why make such an outlandish goal to eliminate suicide? Simple, Aspire is articulating the approach that we, as individuals, want for ourselves, our families, our friends and our communities. No one who works here wants to lose anyone we know through suicide. And, since we work in an industry designed to treat this problem, we intend to put forth every effort we can imagine to end it and quickly. In order to meet it, it will require our organization, teams, and employees working together with everyone we serve to achieve it.
Fortunately, we are not alone. I have been amazed at the successes being made within organizations who have taken on a Zero Suicide Initiative. Sometime around 2008, while attending the annual conference of the National Council for Community Behavioral Health, I became aware of the initiatives at large healthcare organizations to dramatically reduce or eliminate suicide as a cause of death for their service recipients. Large providers like the Henry Ford Health System, in Detroit Michigan, provided dramatic data on the decline in suicides by improving the identification, engagement, quality of their care, and improved transition planning for those with suicidal thoughts or plans. In the years that follow, I have seen similar results from places like Kaiser-Permanente, Johns Hopkins, and others large healthcare programs. More recently, within Indiana, other healthcare entities have adopted the Zero Suicide approach in an effort to eliminate suicides within their communities. Community Health Network and Centerstone have formally launched these efforts, and are inviting others to join. Aspire will be learning from its peers in order to utilize effective practices and to share our successes with others. While our goal is to eliminate suicide from those we serve, it should be everyone’s goal to eliminate suicide in their circle of influence and we want to play our part in creating synergy and progress towards that goal on a community level.
The gauntlet has been thrown down; the banner has been raised. Zero suicides after five years. In order to reach this goal, Aspire has created a 5 part plan:
- Train employees
- Supply clinical decision support tools
- Engage those at risk
- Implement care protocols that will provide the greatest safety
- Use data to improve the effectiveness of these over time
Work has already begun on these parts, and in future postings I will share more details about each and the progress being made to reach our zero suicide goal.
Center for Disease Control. “FastStats – Leading Causes of Death.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Apr. 2016. Web.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. “Zero Suicide.” Zero Suicide. Education Development Center, 2015. Web.
World Life Expectancy. USA Life Expectancy. World Life Expectancy, 6 Jan. 2016. Web.
About the Author: Jim Skeel is the Senior Director, Performance and Outcomes of Aspire Indiana. Learn more about Aspire on our website, or on Facebook.